Against the Current, No. 117, July/August 2005

Against the Current, No. 117, July/August 2005

Is This Sick or What?

— The Editors

AMONG THE DAILY atrocities perpetrated by the Bush regime, against its own population as well as the world at large, some are well-publicized while others tend to slide beneath the radar screen.  Item: One that hasn't received as much attention as it deserves is called "asbestos reform."

Vigilante Man, 2005 Style

— Mike Davis

"The local people whipped themselves into a mold of cruelty. Then they formed units, squads, and armed them — armed them with clubs, with gas, with guns. We own the country. We can’t let these Okies get out of hand." —John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

THE VIGILANTES ARE back. In the 1850s they lynched Irishmen in San Francisco; in the 1870s they terrorized the Chinese throughout the West; in the 1910s they murdered striking Wobblies in California, Washington and Montana; in the 1920s they organized “Bash a Jap” campaigns; and in the 1930s they greeted the Joads and other Dust Bowl refugees to California with teargas and buckshot.

An Anti-Imperialist War Resister

— ATC Interviews Carl Webb

MILITARY RESISTER CARL Webb, 39, is Absent Without Leave from the Texas National Guard, after his service was involuntarily extended in July, 2004 through the military Stop-Loss program.  He tells his story on his website and blogspot and has been speaking out at antiwar meetings.  His explicit anti-imperialist views have made him a somewhat controversial figure within the peace movement.

Pension Terminations

— Malik Miah

PENSIONS HAVE BEEN an example of a major social wage that most Americans took for granted, both in private and public sector employment. That’s no longer the case. Ask the workers at United Air Lines.

The latest setback for pensions occurred in the airline industry with the termination of four defined benefit pension plans at Untied Airlines, the world’s second largest air carrier. The major unions at the carrier opposed the terminations, but were unable to stop a bankruptcy court from ruling in favor of the corporation’s plans to “save” the company.

Scamming Social Security

— Susan Weissman interviews Michael Hudson

Susan Weissman, an editor of Against the Current, interviewed author Michael Hudson this past April on her program “Beneath the Surface” on radio station KPFK, Pacifica in Los Angeles. Many thanks to Walter Tanner for transcribing. The following is an abridged and edited text of the interview.

SUSAN WEISSMAN: MICHAEL Hudson, in the lead article in the April issue of Harpers magazine, says “The one sure mark of a con is the promise of free money.” Michael Hudson is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, and the author of many books on international and domestic finance, including Superimperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance, published by Pluto Press and reviewed right here on this program.

The PATRIOT Act: Darkness With No Sunset

— Julie Hurwitz

A REPORT BY Amnesty International released May 13, 2005 concluded that the treatment of detainees being held around the world, including Guantanamo, in the United States' "war on terror," as glaring and systematic violations of human rights, describing the conditions at the Guantanamo Detention Center as "the gulag of our times, entrenching the notion that people can be detained without any recourse to the law."  ("Guantánamo and Beyond: The Continuing Pursuit of Unchecked Executive Power," Amnesty International, 5/13/05)

"Born into Brothels" Controversy

— Frann Michel

“BORN INTO BROTHELS” won this year’s Academy Award for best documentary. Directed by British photojournalist Zana Briski and U.S. film editor Ross Kauffman, the film follows Briski’s project of teaching photography to a group of children who live in Sonagachi — Calcutta, India’s red-light district — as well as Briski’s efforts to get these children of sex workers admitted into boarding schools.

Guatemala: The Violence of "Free Trade"

— Cyril Mychalejko

ON JANUARY 11, Guatemalan President Oscar Berger spoke to a group of reporters in Guatemala City about ongoing protests against a World Bank mining project in the northern part of the country. He said that his government had to establish law and order. “We have to protect investors,” said Berger. (“One killed, 12 injured as protesters battle police escorting mining equipment in central Guatemala,” Associated Press, 01/11/05)

Hours later the Guatemalan military and police forces armed in riot gear opened fire on protesters, murdering one man and leaving dozens injured.

Bolivia: The Fall of Carlos Mesa

— Jeffery R. Webber

[THIS UPDATE WAS written June 7, 2005 by Jeffery R. Webber, a PhD Candidate in political science at the University of Toronto and a member of the Canadian New Socialist Group currently living in Bolivia.]

PRESIDENT CARLOS MESA Gisbert appeared on television at 9:30pm Monday, June 6, 2005 to address the nation with his latest dramatic gesture of resigning.

The Battle for Democracy in Mexico

— Dan La Botz

THE MEXICAN PEOPLE won a battle for democracy this past spring when massive demonstrations — the largest in Mexico’s tumultuous history — prevented President Vicente Fox from making Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador ineligible to run for president in 2006. The defeat of Fox on this issue was a victory for the Mayor, but above all for the Mexican people, who defended their right to vote for a candidate of their choice in the coming national elections.

Haiti in Crisis

Haiti in Crisis

— Honor Ford-Smith and D. Alissa Trotz

IN 2004, SHORTLY after the coup in Haiti in which President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was removed from office, in the year of the bicentenary of the Haitian revolution, a group of concerned Caribbean Faculty at the University of Toronto organized an emergency public meeting that was exceptionally widely attended.

Much interest was expressed in a follow up discussion, as very little information was available at that time. One year later, a slightly larger group (M. Jacqui Alexander, Honor Ford-Smith, Melanie Newton, Mary Nyquist and Alissa Trotz) organized a teach-in that was held at New College, University of Toronto, in March 2005.

The Second Fall of Aristide

— Robert Fatton, Jr.

MANY OBSERVERS IN the progressive community have argued that the forced departure into exile of Haiti’s former President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, had little to do with his own policy failures or the country’s domestic class structure. Instead they blame the international community and especially American imperialism. While there is some truth to this argument, it is ultimately flawed; it ignores Haitian agency and exaggerates the omnipotence of U.S. hegemony.

Haiti: Racially Profiled!

— Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

I THANK THE organizers for this event that places Haiti squarely in our consciousness where it belongs. I am grateful that Honor Ford-Smith, Jacqui Alexander and Alissa Trotz were so insistent that I attend despite my best efforts to excuse myself. A large number of campus units and off-campus organizations came together, and one knows that this is the proper way to approach our subject tonight. Men anpil, chay pa lou (many hands make the load light).

Furthermore I am humbled by the presence of two of my mentors, Robert Fatton and Frantz Voltaire, who have had a significant impact upon my own intellectual development. One doesn’t have to be old to be a mentor! Thank you for your presence.

Celebrating the Revolutionary Centenary

Understanding Imperialism: Old and New Dominion

— David McNally

IT IS A commonplace today that we have entered a “new age of imperialism.” The emergence of complex world money markets, increasingly integrated global production systems, aggressively neoliberal policies imposed by the likes of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the belligerent militarism of the American state — all these are recognized as new modalities of capitalist empire.

Gifts of the IWW

— Joseph Grim Feinberg

IN JUNE OF this year, the Industrial Workers of the World celebrates 100 years of existence—a glorious and terrible 100 years. The IWW experienced the state-sponsored murder of its bravest members, most famously when "Wobbly Bard" Joe Hill was executed in 1915, having been framed for murder. It lived through years of slander and repression; limped along, still proud and singing, through decades when its membership dropped ever closer toward zero; and remains, not only as a piece of history, but as a force in the present and an inspiration for the future.


Reading Red: Art & Social Revolution

— Alan Wald

THROUGHOUT MUCH OF the 20th century, distinguished painters and muralists were habitually adjoined to revolutionary movements, sometimes producing monumental works expressive of socialist dreams, as well as of the aims and struggles of working people and anti-fascist fighters. One thinks immediately of Spain’s Pablo Picasso (1881- 1973), Mexico’s Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), and the Russian avant-garde of the early Soviet Union.

But what of the United States? Is there a comparable legacy here? Who are the artists, what are their achievements, and how might they be evaluated?

Water War in Bolivia

— Phil Hearse

¡Cochabamba! — Water War in Bolivia
Oscar Olivera
in collaboration with Tom Lewis Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2004, 189pp., $16 paper.

¡COCHABAMBA! is a window on the potential for liberation, and on the strategic challenges, of our times. Oscar Olivera, one of the key leaders of the struggle, and Tom Lewis, a member of the editorial board of International Socialist Review (U.S.), have done a tremendous service in writing this book. Although some basics of the Cochabamba story and considerations on strategy are recounted here, you can only get the Full Monty by reading the book.

Noor: Casting Light on History

— Mahmud Rahman

by Sorayya Khan
Islamabad: Alhamra Publishing, 2003, Penguin India, 2004.

SORAYYA KHAN OPENS her novel Noor with two epigraphs. The first page has these words from Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali: “Your history gets in the way of my memory.”

Studying State & Capitalist Development

— Raghu Krishnan

Locked in Place:
State-Building and Late Industrialization in India
Vivek Chibber
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003, $39.50 cloth.

GIVEN THE DOMINANT neoliberal ideology of our times, it is assumed in most quarters that state intervention in the economies of the post-World War II era was an utter fiasco. This argument is taken as even more self-evident in the case of the countries of the capitalist periphery or “Third World.”

Making Trouble Today

— Pam Galpern

A Troublemakers Handbook 2:
How to Fight Back Where You Work
edited by Jane Slaughter
Detroit, MI: Labor Notes, 2005
8-1/2 x 11 format, 372 pages, $24 paper. [Order on line at]

ACTIVISTS WHO READ the first A Troublemaker’s Handbook, published by Labor Notes in 1991, recognized themselves in the stories of courageous workers who fought to improve their workplaces and their lives. They were gratified that they were not alone, that there was a whole network of troublemakers out there, and even a handbook that took the lessons they’d learned and made them accessible to thousands of other workers.

Women of Color & Reproductive Rights

— Dianne Feeley

Undivided Rights.
Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice
Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross & Elena R. Gutierrez
Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2004. $20 paper.

THE AUTHORS OF Undivided Rights attempt to provide both an overview of how women of color approach organizing around reproductive rights, case studies of those specific organizations and the work they do on the ground. Three framing chapters introduce and summarize, while the other dozen describe specific women’s health organizations within the African American, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander and Latina communities.

Recalling U.S. Trotskyism in the 1960s

— Paul Le Blanc

The Party: The Socialist Workers Party, 1960-1988, a Political Memoir. Volume 1: The Sixties
Barry Sheppard
Melbourne, Australia: Resistance Books, 2005, 354 pages including indexes. Distributed in the United States by Haymarket Books, P.O. Box 180165, Chicago Il 60618 (Order from: www.haymarketbooks. org); $16 paper.

BARRY SHEPPARD’S BOOK is a sustained exercise in retrieving memories of experiences associated with left-wing radicalism prevalent in the 1960s. This is undertaken particularly for the benefit of younger activists who have become engaged in the struggle for global justice in opposition to the corporate-military quest for “empire.” As he puts it: